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Welcome to blog number two in the series where we’ll look at file-based images versus sector-based images. We’ve already done the tools primer and defined the terms again in the last blog post. Now we actually get some real work done by comparing the “tried-and-true approach” of sector-based images that most of us (including me) have grown up with and the relatively newer approach of composing installations with “builds” at deploy time using file-based “core images” (I defined the terms in quotes in the first blog of the series in case you are wondering why I used quotes). Beware, this blog doesn’t have any pictures or pretty screenshots.
I want to be true to real feedback and experiences here and the definition for ImageX in the TechNet Library kind of does that, but it also doesn’t really highlight the benefits of sector-based images. This is a pros and cons article and I’ll start with the Microsoft-defined benefits (or “pros”) of the file-based imaging tool, ImageX then move to sector-based images. The “cons” are really described in the paragraphs as I explain the “pros” – I’ll save a nice table comparing everything for the next and last post in the series.
Benefits of ImageX
The limitations of sector-based imaging led Microsoft® to develop the ImageX tool and the accompanying Windows image (.wim) file format. You can use ImageX to create an image, to modify the image without extracting and recreating the image, and to deploy the image to your environment. Because ImageX works at the file level, it provides the following capabilities:
Many OEMs and corporations need to deploy and install Windows as rapidly as possible, including all relevant updates, applications, and settings. Reduced deployment and installation time lower manufacturing costs for OEMs, and can decrease cost and scheduling risks for corporate deployments.
Is all of this really so one-sided though? Let’s look at each of the bullets individually and see what a typical naysayer would respond with.
What about benefits of a sector-based image?
I’m not writing this blog to say that sector-based imaging is always bad. Like I always say, a good IT pro will answer just about every question with “It depends…” and this is no different. The thing I have been thinking about lately is how closely the advantages of sector-based images mirror those of thick images. Let’s explore the advantages of sector-based images.
Closing thoughts for Part 2 of ‘Improving Your Image…’
I’ve written a bit more than I had planned in part 2 of the series, but I think it is valuable and hopefully you find it unbiased. You should start to see cases where file and sector-based images will make the most sense. Part 3 will be about build automation and I’ll build a table with recommendations for scenarios when sector-based, file-based thin and file-based thick images make the most sense. You can start to extract that from above and draw your own conclusions, but we haven’t really hit on the fun part yet of automation and task sequences. That stuff really changes the game and even if you are a good scripter and insist on using sector-based images for everything, there is a ton of value you can get from a task sequencer even when used for post-OS-install per-user customization. Stay tuned, I promise it will all be clear after part 3.
Goodbye for now, Jeremy Chapman Windows Deployment